What Is a Values Retrospective and Why Is It So Important?

Looking at your previous successes and failures is a great way to see how you can improve for the future. This process of thinking is commonly referred to as a retrospective, and there are many different structures that your team can use to organize your thoughts about your previous projects. The values retrospective is a lesser-known template that is really important for scrum teams and provides a unique perspective on the common retrospective analysis. 

In order to better understand the values retrospective, we will define a values retrospective and break down the structure so you can use one in your next sprint.

Values Retrospective Definition

What is a Values Retrospective?

A values retrospective is a template that walks through the important values of a scrum team and creates a set of shared expectations for the team moving forward.

This retrospective format is a mix between a traditional retrospective and a diagram of the specific values of a scrum team. Since it specifies some specific values important to the scrum framework, it’s specifically geared towards scrum teams. It doesn’t focus as much on the tangible tasks that people accomplish during the project, but more analyzes the values and expectations they have for one another. 

The values retrospective is fairly unique because, unlike traditional retrospective frameworks, it doesn’t focus on tangible actions that your team takes. Most of the time you will diagram the tasks and actions that your team accomplished from the previous sprint and you will use those as a baseline to move forward. Instead of focusing on actionable tasks, the values retrospective centers around shared expectations and values.

This may seem difficult, but as you complete multiple different scrums with the same team your expectations of each other will evolve and you will end up approaching projects differently depending on how you interact with one another.

This means keeping up with your values and verbalizing your expectations can be an important exercise if everyone is to stay on the same page.

Additionally, this board can be paired easily with the scrum board, which allows you to diagram the flow of different tasks as they move towards completion. This is a great way to gain value from both the task side and the values side of team building.

Since this is a fairly unique template, we’ll walk through how to build and use it below.

How to Build a Values Retrospective

If you haven’t used this retrospective before it will certainly feel different, so here’s an overview of what it entails and how to properly utilize each section.

There are generally 5 columns of a values retrospective, with each one corresponding to a different set of values within your scrum team. Traditionally the five core values of scrum are focus, commitment, courage, openness, and respect. Each of these values will have its own column with a prompting question, and these questions will help explain the overall goals of each section.

Fresco Values Retrospective

Focus

Focus is critical to the scrum framework and is what enables timely delivery in regard to the overall team goals. For this reason, it’s important that the entire team is able to singularly focus on the overarching goals so they are always working towards the correct north star.

In this column, it’s important to ask questions like:

  • How can we as individuals, and a team, create clearer focus towards our goals?
  • How can we effectively overcome distractions?

Commitment

Commitment is about accountability and being trustworthy. This is necessary for a positive team dynamic and is both important individually and for the team as a whole. Commitment is especially important in scrum because there is heightened importance on timely accomplishment, and this leaves little room for error.

In this column, it’s important to ask questions like:

  • How will our commitments allow us to achieve our goals?
  • How can we improve our commitment individually?
  • What can we do to improve as a collective?

Courage

Courage is a value that is underrepresented in most workflows, and scrum does a good job prioritizing it. In this context, courage is the acknowledgment that the successes and failures during the process of completion take courage, and this should not be overlooked. It is an admittance that your team must be courageous in order to reach their goals and not all things will come easily.

In this column, it’s important to ask questions like:

  • How will we respond to roadblocks?
  • How will we complete difficult tasks and problems?

Openness

One of the reasons the Scrum framework works so well is it is built on clear communication and collaboration between team members. This is the essence of openness, and it entails teams being able to communicate freely with each other about expectations, feedback, and criticism. 

This space is not possible if there is judgment involved, so it’s important that in this column your team creates clear expectations around how they will communicate. 

In this column, it’s important to ask questions like:

  • How can we be open to new possibilities?
  • How can we approach sensitive topics in a neutral way?

Respect

Respect is a huge part of working in a successful team and in many ways links to openness as well. It’s critical that your team knows respectful boundaries with one another and is able to communicate without losing this sense of respect. In many ways, having an environment built on mutual respect is a great way to drive efficiency within your team as well.

In this column, it’s important to ask questions like:

  • How can we demonstrate our respect for each other?
  • What are some respectful ways for us to communicate?

Values Retrospective Importance

Now that we have a solid grasp on the structure of the values retrospective, let’s briefly discuss why it’s important to conduct a retrospective on the whole and what special traits the values retrospective brings to the table.

Firstly as we discussed in our guide about retrospectives, regardless of the specific template, retrospectives always “target the optimization of future projects through the lens of past successes and failures”. This is definitely true for the values retrospective as well but it accomplishes this goal in a different manner.

The values presented in this template provide a unique advantage because they highlight the different ways your team interacts and the various expectations you have for each other.

This is special, and because the scrum framework is based so strictly based on timely releases, your team needs to have a really strong understanding of how you all work together.

It can be argued that creating an understanding around courage, communication, expectations, and respect is just as important as highlighting the tasks that will arise during your next project.

This understanding of teamwork and communication provides so much importance to the values retrospective and is the key factor that sets it apart from other retrospective templates. The values retrospective isn’t just about preparing for your next project, it’s about creating a team dynamic that can accomplish any project. 

Conclusion

If you work in a scrum team and you’ve been looking to optimize future sprints, conducting a values retrospective is one of the best things you can do. If you liked this guide make sure you take a look at Fresco where you can utilize this template and many more.

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